In this presentation I gave my tips for organising social media teams in large organisations, based on my current experience at Orange. This is the session synopsis of my keynote presentation at Figaro Digital in London on November 23, 2011.
5 Top tips for organising social media teams in large organisations
1. the social media strategist’s dilemma
Jeremiah Owyang, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, gave us a presentation in Paris in December 2010 which rang many bells at the time. In that presentation, entitled the Career Path of the Social Media Strategist, he described the dilemma that every social media strategist in my position is facing: either we scale and industrialise our job or we crash! The volume of requests is staggering, the number of new platforms ever increasing.
November 2011 was a critical month for instance: Google+ released its business pages on November 4th, 2011 and everybody at Socialmedia.org and everywhere else were asking themselves whether to dip or not to dip a toe in the water … It may seem trivial but how do we get ourselves organised? Do we have to throw more budget onto this – and if so for what purpose? – Or more resources, or do nothing and then run the risk of being a laggard? Decision-making has to be brisk, and the consequences aren’t minimal. Building a new network of fans/followers/likers … whatever you call them is the basis for doing community work and practice word of mouth marketing, and it is a job which requires many efforts and resources.
Even on existing platforms, one has to improve the way in which we are responding. It is particularly true at Orange, because we are a popular service provider with millions of clients and like any other service provider, one has to pay a lot of attention to customer service.
It is therefore of paramount importance that we – at Corporate communications – understand that.
As a conclusion to his presentation, Jeremiah demonstrated that there were 4 potential organisational models and that the only viable one in a large organisation, the only one which scales, is the one called multiple hub and spoke or “dandelion”, in which empowerment is enforced, and the focus is on education, delegation, cross-organisational work and best practice sharing.
From our own perspective, this is easy to understand. Not only do I manage the Corporate Orange Website (Orange.com) and social media engagement with my team, but I also have to coordinate other initiatives in other entities and other countries (we have presence in 35 countries) as well as define the Governance that goes with this.
Now that we have established that there is a strong requirement for implementing the “dandelion” organisation, how do we do that? And how do we do that in a mostly de-centralised organisation. Most organisations, a fact I was able to witness throughout my career, are de-centralised. De-centralised organisations are more creative, but they are also more challenging with regard to how one implements programmes across the board. If your organisation is more regimental, and all you need to do is press a button this presentation isn’t for you. Having said that, even in the Army when I was part of it, I witnessed a lot of de-centralisation which gave us leeway to do things and innovate at our level.
We have been busy working on Social Media at Orange for a long time now.
Even though it’s only 4 years, Internet years are said to be longer than ordinary years, only Internet pioneers remember that though. When I started working in this industry this is what used to be common knowledge.
Internet years were likened to dog-years, i.e. supposedly 1 year equalled 7 years. Although there is nothing scientific to back this statement up, it is true that a lot has happened in just 4 years and sometimes I realised that everything we have learned has to be re-learned time and time again. 4 years later, approximately 200 people – the number was officially quoted by my colleague who is in charge of our digital HR strategy – are working in and around social media at Orange worldwide. This is a lot of people, but not out of proportion (we have 169,000 employees worldwide).
Yet, the challenge described by Jeremiah Owyang in his presentation are really pertinent.
So, how are we trying to tackle this challenge?
In Social Media as in many other areas, we are learning as we go along, but we have discovered that there are certain methods which worked well for us and I will be sharing them with you today. We aren’t probably doing everything right, but we are learning every day and experimenting a lot. As I keep saying, there is no such thing as a social media expert, we are just social media practitioners.
2. it all starts with your social media team
Team involvement is key. It’s the foundation for sound change management. First, one has to establish credibility, then find change agents, and last but not least, ensure that one educates, encourages and supports employees. The coordination team is at the centre of the hub and spoke approach.
Our role in the Web and Social Media team is to develop and promote our corporate website Orange.com (2nd largest French Corporate Website), to coordinate Web and social media efforts, at home and Worldwide.
As a matter of fact, our role extends beyond Facebook (or Twitter, G+ etc.) page management, it’s a coordination effort. And coordination starts with practice.
How on earth would we be able to share best practices if we didn’t practice ourselves?! Tools are interchangeable, but people and knowhow aren’t, and some if not most of the knowledge has to be developed in-house, this is something I am very keen on.
Our tasks therefore extend beyond social media monitoring, we actually master (or try to master) all the facets of Social Media engagement including Digital Brand Content creation – there is someone in my team dedicated to the facilitation of the http://live.orange.blog which is more than just a blog, but a platform for both internal and external partners to exchange.
This involvement turns us into internal consultants so as to be able to advise people on their Social Media Engagement and presence. Our job is not to artificially manage fan pages but to fit these tasks into the overall picture of Web communications.
Over the years, we’ll see more and more of that knowledge and knowhow applied to other fan pages than our own, and devoted to the networked promotion of other entities. This is indeed starting now.
3. structuring your social media approach
… is a must, but it has to be performed in stages. First one has to foster usage and establish credibility, second educate, evangelise and support. Social media guidelines are made for that. They are a tool aimed at encouraging best practices, rather than a weapon of mass destruction of your enterprise team spirit. This is why I didn’t want to have Social Media Guidelines posted at the beginning of our Social Media endeavours. Instead I thought it was best to foster usage, gather a number of like-minded people who would contribute to the same platforms in a collaborative manner.
It is any wonder that the strongest community on our internal collaboration platform is that of our experts who are blogging on the Orange Business Services platform (http://blogs.orange-business.com)? Right from day one, we started to structure this initiative in a decentralised way, ensuring that our experts were empowered in order to create user generated content. Now, this has created motivation and enthusiasm amongst the teams who are more than ever determined to keep this new media. Once and this empowerment has been established, then and only then can we deploy our social media guidelines, as was done in early October 2011; they are also made available to all viewers at http://orange.com/smg.
4. using tools as platforms for change
Social media is a difficult discipline which requires many different tools for management, monitoring and statistics. Using your team’s expertise, you can build credibility and offer tools which could exponentially equip your entire organisation, therefore improving cross channel communications and mutual help. These mutualised tools can therefore serve also as a basis for the implementation of the multiple hub and spoke organisation. At Orange, we have been able to work in those directions more than once.
First and foremost, we have worked on the standardisation of processes and the industrialisation of moderation around our social media platforms. Because our teams cannot be behind their screens all day long, let alone speak all languages and especially difficult or rare tongues (even though we already speak three or four), we are resorting to external teams in order to moderate the comments and posts by our audiences on social media platforms, in order that each and every customer (this is our ultimate goal) gets an individual response by the Orange helpers teams in the country relevant to the customer who has an issue.
We have been able to work beyond this though, with the equipment of the entire organisation with a social media platform Administration tool which we are using to help teens better communicate between each other and respond within platforms across the organisation. With this kind of platforms (many vendors exist) you can very well ask somebody from, say the Orange helper team, to take ownership of your twitter platform any time somebody has a problem which needs to be solved. Slowly but surely, we are improving the process, and the equipment of our entire organisation with tools like this is making it possible.
Beyond social media (but including social media), we are implementing what we call a websites factory, based on the popular open source software CMS EZpublish in order not only to establish consistency throughout the group, but also to achieve the merger between social media and web platforms. In essence, this is undoubtedly the topic which is the most important in my eyes, a lot more important than just an merely growing one’s fan bases on Facebook and other platforms, because through this websites factory, we will be able to establish governance, enforce consistency, make social media work for the company and its business and eventually, establish this decentralised, dandelion organisation which I was talking about at the beginning of my pitch.
It is possible to enforce organisational change through the implementation of new tools, even though the tools in themselves do not really matter. They can be changed one-minute to the next, but in the same way that we do business process re-engineering through tools i.e. that we encourage people to change their behaviour by mimicking those of others which have been translated into Information Systems, we can use this tools as platforms to help people communicate with one another and better respond to our customers and audiences.
5. building a community of community managers
Once all the above principles have been implemented, there is a requirement for all in the organisation to get themselves organised and this is what we have been doing for at least three years now, with a community of community managers which was started by my predecessor, and is known as the “come’in” community.
This community of community managers exists online on our internal collaboration platform named Plazza, but mostly, it is a community of people who actually meeting person every two months. In a well-established process now we gather all these people together in a room anything between 50 to 100, we invite renowned industry professionals who give us some of their time and knowledge in order to share with our community.
This community of community managers is also working on new projects, building a repository together, establishing the tools which I described earlier on, and last but not least launching campaigns together and exchanging on best practices. In December, we will be going one step further by inviting some of our peers from other corporations in order to exchange and broaden the scope of our discussions.
We see “come’in” (one of our meetings in the above picture) as one of our most important assets, a forum in which we can devise new projects and launch new initiatives a place in which we can exchange and debate and move forward and implement the dandelion organisation. Our most important goal now with regard to this community is to internationalise it and we will be taking “come’in” to Tunisia in order to kick-start this process.
Key to our new programmes is also the so-called “social media champions” programme which is going to enable us to distinguish the people throughout the organisation who are actually better than others in social media. As I said earlier on, I don’t believe in social media experts. It’s more a case of “the blind leading the blind” and helping the company to move one step at a time and succeed in its business endeavours via social media and improve the way it communicates online as well as its e-reputation.
 Jeremiah’s slideshare presentation is made available at: https://www.slideshare.net/jeremiah_owyang/keynote-career-path-of-corporate-social-strategist
 see “how old are you in Internet years”: http://joesummerhays.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/how-old-are-you-in-internet-years/
 check http://orange.com/leaflet for details